Interview: Lotte Mullan
She has written songs for Jason Donovan, has been touring with David McAlmont and now she is about to hit the big time herself. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH chats to Norfolk-born Lotte Mullan.
Lotte Mullan has just released her first official single, Would You Be So Kind. Taken from her debut album, Plain Jane, due to be released at the end of May, it marks a huge turning point in the career of the Norfolk songwriter who has been described as 'the female Bob Dylan' and 'the new girl in town'.
'This is a huge step for me. It is the cross-over from being independent to being a lot more heavyweight,' she said.
'I want people to be singing my songs in their cars when they are driving to work and I want to be able to travel and to make really good albums – and this is a big step towards doing all of that.'
Lotte, 26, was born in Ellingham, in Norfolk, and grew up in Bungay, Suffolk. The former Bungay High School pupil was introduced to music by her father, now a teacher at Sprowston High.
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'My dad was in a band and used to play gigs at weekends. As my parents were divorced that was when I saw him most so I would go out with him when he was playing – and I just loved it,' she said.
'I didn't really like school and wasn't sure what I wanted to do eventually so I didn't study music formally but we had a piano and a guitar, and I used to mess around with them a lot.'
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Lotte Mullan also used to spend her time listening to lots of music, particularly the record collection her dad left behind, which contained the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, Bobbie Gentry, Kirsty MacColl and The Beatles.
'I left school and worked at the Norwich Union for a year to save up some money,' she remembered.
'I then went to New Zealand, where I lived in a camper van. That was when I bought my guitar and started writing songs.'
Her songs were always very heartfelt, she said, influenced by the likes of Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.
'I like people who just write really memorable songs,' she said. 'My songs were always fairly folky, about boys who didn't call back etc!
'I would also write songs for my mum and play them down the phone to her.'
Lotte realised she wanted to make a career from music so returned to the UK, enrolled at Acton College, in London and studied a Modern Music degree.
'I did not have the any qualifications to be able to do a formal music degree but this suited me perfectly because I just wanted to be able to play my songs, to learn more about the music business and to meet other musicians – all of which I did,' she said.
While at college, she also continued her song writing, and it was during that time that she penned a number about bullying in response to problems her little sister was having at school.
'I recently did a schools tour with that song and went back to my own school in Bungay and played it there,' she said.
Lotte also began collaborating with other musicians, writing songs for some of the industry's best known names.
'I wrote a song for Jason Donovan called Because of You, which is going on his next record I believe,' she said. 'Another great man I've written a lot with is Graham Gouldman from 10cc.'
She added: 'I quite like writing for other people – I don't have time to sing all my songs myself!'
The next move, she decided, was to start her own record label, and so Raindog Records was launched.
'I wanted to be in control of what I was doing and to make the kinds of records I wanted to,' she explained. 'What has happened since then to change things is that Universal have licensed it and they will put this single and album out for me. This is going to make a very big difference for me in terms of getting it out there for people to hear.'
Since then, she has supported David McAlmont, of McAlmont and Butler, on his national tour, giving her access to a whole new generation of music lovers.
Her aim now, she admitted, is to be able to play in front of as many people as possible.
'I would love to have my songs played on the radio so that people know me better and to be able to go on tour in the autumn,' she said.
'When I was a teenager, I used to go to The Waterfront and to UEA to hear gigs.
'What I would love more than anything now is to be able to go back to one of those places and to do my own whole show there.'
n Lotte Mullan's debut single Would You Be So Kind is out now.
n Her debut album, Plain Jane, will be released on May 30.
n Further listening: www.lottemullan.com